German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Berlin on his first visit to the country since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Mr Zelenskyy’s visit on Sunday comes as he seeks further arms deliveries to help his country fend off the Russian invasion, and funds to rebuild what has been destroyed by more than a year of devastating conflict.
A Luftwaffe jet flew Mr Zelensky to the German capital from Rome, where he had met on Saturday with Pope Francis and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni.
On the eve of his arrival — which is taking place amid tight security — the German government announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine worth more than 2.7 billion euros (£2.3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition.
“Already in Berlin. Weapons. Powerful package. Air defense. Reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security,” Mr Zelensky tweeted on Sunday, in an apparent reference to the key priorities of his trip.
After initially hesitating to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, Germany has become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine, including Leopard 1 and 2 battle tanks, and the sophisticated IRIS-T SLM air-defence system.
Modern Western hardware is considered crucial if Ukraine is to succeed in its planned counteroffensive against Russian troops.
Since then, both Mr Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz have visited Ukraine, assuring Mr Zelensky of their support for his country’s fight against the Russian invasion.
Announcing the new arms package, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin would help Ukraine for “as long as it takes”.
After meeting Mr Scholz and other senior officials at the chancellery, the two leaders are expected to fly to the western city of Aachen for Mr Zelensky to receive the International Charlemagne Prize awarded to him and the people of Ukraine.
Organisers say the award recognises that their resistance against Russia’s invasion is a defence “not just of the sovereignty of their country and the life of its citizens, but also of Europe and European values”.
While German leaders have expressed strong backing for Ukraine, German voters are divided on whether the country should provide further weapons, particularly advanced fighter jets of the kind Kyiv is asking its allies for.